So here’s The Guardian’s crowdsourcing tool for MPs’ expenses. If you’ve not already, you should have a play: it’s a dream. There are over 77,000 documents to get through – and in less than 24 hours users have gone through over 50,000 of those. You wonder how long it took The Telegraph to get that far.
Meanwhile, that process is doing much more than just finding ‘stories’. It’s generating data: the date, the amount, the type of expense, the type of document. When this stage is finished, The Guardian will have a database that will allow people to filter, mix and combine the expenses data in different ways.
It’s also about telling a ‘story’ in a different way. There’s an element of game mechanics in the site – that progress bar (shown above) compels you to bring the site to completion (it strangely reminds me of the Twitter game Spymaster). This makes it more engaging than a made-for-print exclusive – as I wrote about Help Me Investigate, this isn’t ‘citizen journalism’: it’s micro-volunteering. And when you volunteer, you tend to engage.
And when you treat news as a platform rather than a destination, then people tend to spend more time on your site, so there’s an advertising win there.
Finally, we may see more stories, we may see interesting mashups, and this will give The Guardian an edge over the newspaper that bought the unredacted data – The Telegraph. When – or if – they release their data online, you can only hope the two sets of data will be easy to merge.